Sunday, June 10, 2012

Experimentation with Table Tilting

By Robin M. Strom-Mackey

In the near complete darkness the sitters circle the table in anticipation; speaking in hushed tones, holding their breath. The minutes tick by. Nothing happens. And then…a series of three quick raps are heard. Someone knocking at the house next door, perhaps? But as they come to this decision they feel it; at first a small shudder skittering across the table top. Then the legs of the table seem to jump and move. A collective gasp from the group, and suddenly the table literally seems to lurch below their hands….

This past-time, popularized during the spiritualist movement of the 1850’s, is referred to as table tipping (or table talking). This phenomenon, was popularized by mediums during the period, many of them charlatans who manipulated the table themselves for a paying audience. However, amateur groups soon discovered that no medium need be in attendance. Often groups of ordinary people would assemble for an evening of free entertainment; invitations sent out for a night of “tea and table tipping (Blum, 2006).“

Essentially table tilting, involved a small table that could be made to move, sliding, shuddering and in some cases levitating or moving across a space. Unexplained sounds such as knocking or rapping were sometimes heard. Table talking sessions were conducted in the near darkness of a séance type of environment, usually involving a small number of individuals who would sit around a table each resting their hands on the table - much the same way as a Ouija board planchette. The sitters were instructed to keep both hands visible on the table top and to move them as little as possible. Sessions might or might not involve a medium.

Experimenting with Table Tilting According to Troy Taylor, author and founder of the American Ghost Society, table tipping has been enjoying a resurgence of late. He notes that a tipping session can be held in a location that is not considered haunted and sitters can still experience phenomenon (Taylor, 2007). That’s because the phenomenon is considered to be an effect of RSPK and not the workings of a spirit. The dramatic effects of table tipping are a collective combining of RSPK. RSPK or Recurrent Spontaneous Psycho Kinesis is an ability to effect the material world with the mind. It is what is theorized to be behind poltergeist (noisy ghost) hauntings, which are created through RSPK of a living agent, usually unconsciously, and not a ghost or spirit. (SPI, 2012).

British psychologist and member of the SPR, Kenneth J. Batchehelder was the first to suggest RSPK as the agent behind table tipping phenomenon. He designed an experiment using table tipping to measure RSPK. Batchelder believed that the heightened sense of expectation, an atmosphere conducive to table tilting, and the group’s collective belief in the success of the experiment created an energy sufficient to effect an agent - in this case directed at a table - creating anomalous noises and movements (Karl, 2007).

Click the link to watch a short video of Kenneth Batcheder demonstrate and explain table tipping. Sadly this historic clip has been poorly preserved
Taylor suggests that groups of individuals can experiment with table tipping with a reasonable assurance of success. The optimum size for a table-tipping group is four to five individuals. Table tipping rarely occurs at the first session, so make sure that the location and the group members will be available for multiple sessions. The group should plan to meet often and regularly - Taylor suggests one to two times a week. The group needs to be dedicated enough to sit through possibly several sessions where nothing occurs.

In the spirit of scientific investigation, the variables should be kept the same at table tipping sessions. Therefore, all the sessions should be held in the same location and with the same individuals present for each session. Do not invite onlookers, at least at the beginning. The group needs to be alone with each other in order to learn to direct their collective RSPK.
Select a table that is small and lightweight. You can usually find a cheap, small table at a second-hand store. But if you’re using Mom’s huge oak dining room table for your table tipping sessions, you’re not likely to see results any time soon! Again, the same table should be used for all sessions.

Sessions should be free of distractions. Turn off televisions, radios, put the kids to bed, turn off the ringer on the phone etc. Dim the lights to near darkness. Table tipping tends to work better in a séance like environment, probably because the mind and body are free of other distractions. A dim environment also has the added bonus of creating a rather creepy mood, which is also beneficial.

Sitting down to begin your sessions keep a calm, relaxed atmosphere. Talk normally, make jokes and try to relax. Taylor suggests that if a member or members are too uptight about making something happen, the less likely activity is likely to occur (Taylor, 2007). Make sure all members keep their hands relaxed, and in sight, on the table top at all times. When activity does begin to occur, it is easy for members to move their hands unconsciously.
Invariably someone in the group may become bored or over-anxious and may desire to shake things up a bit by experimenting. Taylor suggests that only one variable be changed at any one session (Taylor, 2007). For example, if you desire to bring in a new member, don’t also change the location. If you try a different location keep the same table and all the same members.

Video taping all the sessions is suggested. Use a video camera with an IR setting. If you don’t have such a camera available, IR adapters can be purchased from many electronics stores for very little money. Make sure the video camera is set on the widest shot available, use a tripod or other stable device. It is best, of course, to have all of the group members and the table is in the shot at all times, so that any cheating (i.e. members moving the table on their own) is detectable. It will also provide proof of any occurring phenomenon. You can also track the increase or changes in phenomenon over time. You may also want to keep an audio track recording on the session as well.
That is not to say that cheating is altogether a bad thing. Taylor notes that often faking something can induce real activity to begin. “In one experiment, a sitter experimented with this and found that he was able to induce real rapping’s after he faked rapping noises or moved the table. He was never seen doing this as the sessions were held in near darkness (Taylor, 2007).” Taylor speculates that the reason faking can help is because most people have an inherent disbelief in the existence of psi. This disbelief may be buried deeply within the unconscious, but he admits it is almost always there. “Faking it” seems to trick the conscience into believing that it can happen, and then the mind is free to channel without the block of disbelief.

Even though table tipping sessions are an experiment of RSPK versus actually trying to contact a spirit, still such experiments can be beneficial for paranormal investigators. Taylor notes, experimenting with table tipping can give paranormal investigators a better understanding of what to expect should they come across an investigation involving poltergeist style activity.
Table Tipping at a Ghost Hunt
Obviously table tipping can be attempted at locations that are thought to have paranormal activity. Taylor suggests if a group attempts a table tipping session at a suspected haunted location that the group use the parameters above with some additional caveats.
The group may elect to include a medium into the session as well. If so, only use one as a control for the group. Also, when selecting group members avoid those who are openly or brazenly skeptical. Those “goats” in the group can block the activity with their disbelief.
For an investigation session the group will want to monitor with more devices than simply a video camera. Taylor suggests setting up at least two video cameras, an audio recorder, at least one if not several EMF detectors (Trifield Natural EMF detectors suggested) which can be set up around the outside of the circle to monitor changes. Stationary temperature gauges and humidity gauges should also be set up and monitored. In addition Taylor suggests having one to two individuals take photographs throughout the session and another take notes of anything that occurs during the session. This is in addition to the 4 or 5 individuals needed for the circle.
The session itself may be conducted differently. The group may elect to hold a type of EVP session with questions asked and answers encouraged. Or, if a medium is present, a type of medium-type contact may be used. This type of experiment, Taylor notes, makes any solid, verifiable evidence difficult. However, all the equipment should be monitored closely during the session and any changes notated carefully.


Blum, Deborah (2006) Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death. Penguin Books. New York, New York.
Karl, Jason (2007) An Illustrated History of the Haunted World. Barnes and Noble, New York, New York.
Society for Paranormal Investigation (SPI) Retrieved via world wide web June 10, 2012 at

Taylor, Troy (2007) Ghost Hunter’s Guidebook: The Essential Guide to Investigating Ghosts and Hauntings. Whitechapel Press. Decatur, Illinois.

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